[backstage pass]
Behind the Velvet Rope
Professor spends summer on the road blogging for the Dixie Chicks
by Julene Snyder

School of Law professor Junichi Semitsu jammed backstage with the Dixie Chicks after a show this summer. Although it was a ‘70s costume party, he ended up being the only one in costume (above).

When Junichi Semitsu thought about what he might do this summer, the idea that he’d become a full-time embedded blogger for the Dixie Chicks on their “Accidents and Accusations” tour never even crossed his mind.

But when MSN executives came across the 32-year-old USD School of Law professor’s personal blog, they liked his irreverent tone enough to request further writing samples.

“When they offered me the job, I thought it was a practical joke,” Semitsu says, deadpan.

The Dixie Chicks, of course, are the pop/country group that created a huge brouhaha with lead singer Natalie Maines’ remark to a London audience that she was “ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.”

“In some ways, that’s the main reason I took this,” he says. “I’m fascinated by how the Dixie Chicks have become a lightning rod.”

While the Chicks come across as down-to-earth and funny, it’s Semitsu’s quick wit that makes the blog a joy to read:

Suddenly, I am supposed to help world-famous rock star Emily Robison write a letter to world-famous television personality Barbara Walters. Suddenly, I have become the ghostwriting mustard softening the beef in between a superstar white bread sandwich. This previous sentence is proof that I should not use any metaphors in the letter.

I, however, am stunned. My mouth is a wide open space and my jaw is taking the long way to the floor. Someone turns the television off, but I am still staring at it, as if it’s a magical box in which you can make people like Meredith Vieira say things you just finished typing. I cannot accept that [the letter I just helped write] was read, word for word, on live national television less than an hour after it was written. Who else has the power to have her words read live on national television within 30 minutes, except for maybe President Bush and Tom Cruise’s alleged baby?”

When asked to sum up his summer, Semitsu uses words like “surreal” and “amazing.”

“So far they’ve been happy with what I’ve done and haven’t asked me to change a word,” he says. “I’m just there to be a fly on the wall.” Which doesn’t mean there aren’t certain perks, including goodies like all-access back-stage passes. In a word, sweet.